scalethesummit-carvingScale The Summit are an instrumental metal band. While that very fact might cause lots of you to excitedly skip to the next paragraph where I actually talk about the music, it will likely send just as many running to the hills. And that’s perfectly cool, because the type of heady, proggy music Scale The Summit peddle isn’t likely to appeal to a lot of folks anyway, regardless of whether or not there’s some dude screaming/growling/singing on top of it. This is the kind of band that musicians are gonna cream their pants over and most others will shrug in overwhelming “meh”-itude. But the fact of the matter is that Scale the Summit are immensely talented musicians and composers, and they just don’t feel like letting those pesky things called “lyrics” get in the way of enjoying what matters most, the music. If bands like Intronaut, Russian Circles and Cynic tickle your metal bone(r), Scale the Summit’s Prosthetic Records debut Carving Desert Canyons is likely to do the same.

Just because Scale the Summit are instrumental (instrumetal?) doesn’t mean they get caught up in showing you how well they can play. Extended shred passages, jams, drum solos or any form of what could be considered wankery are all completely absent from Carving Desert Canyons. The emphasis remains squarely on the composition, telling the story through musical nuance rather than words, whether that means pounding you over the head with deep chugga grooves or gently massaging you with atmospheric aural waves. The lack of vocals doesn’t mean standard song-structures are completely eschewed, either; the songs follow patterns, repeat motifs, and have a general sense of direction and focus that many instrumental bands completely lack.

The band’s composition style is remarkably like Cynic’s, with a jazz sensibility and progressive inflection complementing a base rooted firmly in rock and metal. Chris Letchford’s nimble 8-string (!) guitar work fills the void left by the absence of vocals, painting a nuanced picture where every note serves a distinct purpose (think a more agile and slightly faster David Gilmour). The looping, spiraling lead work brings to mind Russian Circles’ Mike Sullivan, while Jordan Eberhardt’s bass — refreshingly loud and clear in the mix for a modern metal record — warrants a comparison to Intronaut’s Joe Lester, deep, ballsy, present and full of heart. The band — rounded out by drummer Pat Skeffington and guitarist Travis Levrier — knows when to noodle and when to play in lock-step for maximum force, a dynamic that furthers the appeal of Carving Desert Canyons. The mix is pristine and clear without any extra gloss, as it should be for a work of music that focuses so heavily on what’s actually being played.

In truth, I’m slightly disappointed by some of the seemingly more digestible numbers on Carving Desert Canyons; what I’d heard from Scale the Summit’s 2007 release Monument had a somewhat more off-kilter, bizarro element to the music that I really liked. While Canyons certainly has some such moments, most of the time the band seems to favor major-key ditties that are a little more predictable as opposed to some of the whacko shit from the previous record. But it’s a small complaint, really. Instrumetal this good is likely to gain the band plenty of recognition within the metal world, and may even turn a few heads from outside of it. And who knows; Carving Desert Canyons is so well put-together that Scale The Summit may even gain a few heretofore anti-instrumental converts.


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(four out of five horns)

[Scale the Summit on MySpace]
[Carving Desert Canyons comes out on February 17th. Pre-order on Amazon.]

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